As widowed people, most holidays will come with some sort of a bump or lump. We are socked by memories; how we spent the last 4th of July together, that empty chair at the Thanksgiving table, that Memorial Day weekend we traveled somewhere fun. This past weekend was Mother’s Day, which carries no less emotion for many of us.
I write a lot about how strange and even unrecognizable my life is now. I can’t explain exactly how I got here, but I can tell you a little about what it’s like, just over three years after my husband died.
I’m still working my way back into life on the island from the last two weeks I spent in New Orleans helping out my stepdaughter and her family. Two weeks of helping care for a four year old and a two year old with a newborn there as well pretty much knocks out everything else one might otherwise be doing or thinking about. Having never raised babies myself it was a new experience…one I treasured deeply, and one that has helped me begin to really understand both the joy and exhaustion of parenting. I hated to leave her, hate not being closer to see those children grow, hate thinking I am so far away…but, her own mother was flying in the day I left, so she will still have some help for awhile. Even though I am a stepparent, I have many years of memories with her…I went to her high school graduation, and now she is, some 17 years later, raising three beautiful children. It breaks my heart not to be able to share it all with Mike, who was always so proud of both his daughters.
I have to remind myself, as many of us do, I expect, that this widowhood is, as I learned in AA, a matter of progress, not perfection. Because I, for one, consistently seem to expect more of myself than is realistic. By which I mean, I continually scan my body and mind and heart to see where I am in this grief and why I’m not further along, even as my mind tells me to stop such nonsense and lays out all the reasons why I need to stop such nonsense.
Still it continues. But I’m getting better at just letting it be and not gauging my grief by anyone else’s grief.
So...progress, not perfection.Read more
I am traveling…yes, I’m off island once again. My poor little pink suitcase I bought the year after Mike died had to be taken out of service because the stitching actually ripped open this last trip, it’s been used so much. I can’t remember ever having a suitcase get worn out…and I can’t remember when in my life I’ve stayed in so many different houses and hotel rooms in one year.
My friend and fellow widow Karin here in Kona was talking about her husband’s death day last month…the conversation went on before I really realized how that term flew by so clearly and succinctly without us having to explain what that meant, though I hadn’t used it before. Death day. That day, we all know; that day, we all remember, that day, we can never forget.
Mike’s death day was yesterday, February 17. It has now been three years.
Even when I'm not alone at the end of the day, I'm still lonely for Mike. His space can just never be filled.
I wrote that line weeks ago but couldn’t finish anything with it. I think because it seemed like a complete thought; that one sentence summed it up for me in so many ways. But since I’ve been back from my holiday travels and looking at another new year, I’ve been overwhelmed by the idea that it might be time to begin to shift more into my here and now. Maybe it was because during the time with my family, Mike’s missing presence was so looming. He was just there but not, you know? My family had known him and remembered him with me. We talked about him and toasted him and told stories and it was wonderful, and important, to be able to share that.
It was still dark when I stepped outside the Holiday Inn near the Los Angeles airport where the airline had been forced to put me up after a snarl of delays and cancellations across the country left me unable to make my connection back to Hawaii. It was the final leg in a long day and a half of travel and I felt bleary and grungy, having spent the night without my larger bag of clothes which, I was told, the airline agent's eyes wide with horror as she printed out my hotel voucher the night before, was somewhere lost in massive chaos down in the baggage area.
Here's the sucky thing about being widowed. Well, one of the many sucky things about it anyway. Holidays will always be hard. They will always be tarnished with lost love and that empty chair at the table. There is just no getting around it, and it doesn't matter how long it's been. I've been thinking about it a lot this year - my third since Mike died - because the more time that passes the more I realize that will simply not change. It's not like some future year I will just be blissfully happy without a care in the world or sadness and longing. It's just never going to happen.
Like his parents, Drew's aunt is someone I've gotten much closer to since he died. Yesterday was our first time visiting since I went up to Ohio last month. I went to help her move some furniture out of her uncle's garage. The 2 hour drive out to his place was just what we needed to catch up on all that is changing in our lives with my move to Ohio. Not just my life... our lives. This move of mine is affecting all of us. His parents, who I have lived with since he died... who have become my own family in the process. My closest friends, who I will be very far away from for the first time since we all met 7 or 8 years ago. And everyone else close in my life in some way.
Sometimes life brings you odd reminders though of just how beautiful and seamless even the most complex situations can be. While with Drew's aunt yesterday, over at her uncle's house, we began looking at pictures up on the walls. In the hallway was a wall full of old photos, in particular a collage frame with 20-30 photos arranged all together. He stood and shared with us about all the pictures, who they were, who had died, etc. Brothers and sisters, aunt and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents and moms and dads. On the surface, it looks like anyone's family collage on the wall. But there was something very unique about this particular college that really stood out to me...Read more